QUARANTINE SEASON has reminded me of two particular things about the Christian life that are, like so many others, at first glance contradictory. Namely that church attendance is vital for a healthy faith. And that church attendance isn’t enough for a healthy faith.
Now before anyone gets all huffy, no, “the church” isn’t the building. But “going to church” in the sense of being with other believers is a convenient shorthand for becoming, for a while, something of the body of Christ—whether remotely or in person.
However we are able to come together, something special happens. We get to draw on each other’s strengths and from their gifts (1 Cor. 14:36). We get to carry one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). We get to access the promise of God’s presence (Matt 18:20). We get to access the promise of His answering our prayers (Matt., 18:19).
These all require involvement and interaction with other people. But a Sunday morning or a midweek small group isn’t enough to get you through the rest of the week on your own. There is a difference between drawing from other people and relying on them. Others can help breathe some wind into your sails, but you still need to be able to row on your when they are not around.
This came to mind when I was reading about the time Saul was made king over Israel, in 1 Samuel 13. He gathered the people to face off against their long-time oppressors, the Philistines, but there was a problem.
In a way that’s not made clear, the Philistines had ensured that there were no blacksmiths in Israel; the Israelites had to go to the Philistines whenever they wanted their tools sharpened. And pay through the nose for the privilege. But being gouged financially wasn’t the worst of it.
The practice meant that “on the day of battle, there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people . . . ” Only Saul and his son, Jonathan, had weapons. Thankfully, God did one of His miracle numbers again, and the Israelites defeated their enemy. But, like any loving father, He doesn’t always bail us out immediately if we are not doing our part.
Which leaves me wondering: are there ways in which I am relying on others to “sharpen my weapons,” rather than taking responsibility myself? For instance, reading the Bible (since we’ve been thinking about weapons, and Scripture is described as the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17)—not out of duty, but knowing that it is God’s food for me (Matt. 4:4). Or thinking that “going to church” provides my needed weekly spiritual calories.
How about you? Have you maybe “outsourced” some aspect of your spiritual life to others, rather than taking personal responsibility? Is there a missing blacksmith in your life that leaves you ill-prepared for the day of battle?
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